Corporate Social Network – Final Project
MIS 535 Managerial Applications of Information Technology
Lou Ann McElyea
June 16, 2013
Many organizations have suggestion boxes. One can find a suggestion box in a gas station, a restaurant, and even a work place. It’s an easy and mostly anonymous way to express ideas or concerns regarding an organization and/or its structure. Through the use of a suggestion box, either client or employee would be able to express opinions and make suggestions according to the various attributes of an organization without a high pressure environment such as meetings and superior/employee one-on-one sessions. With access to so much information technology and data collection resources, many organizations can take their ‘suggestion box’ out of the hallway and to the employee or client through their computer screen.
The easy accessibility of the electronic suggestion box would not only encourage more users, but promote on the spot ideas at the time a suggestion is originated. For example, at Chili’s the restaurant they have an interactive module where you can play games and pay your bill. After a short visit to the bathroom, you think of a game they can add to their interactive board. Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of flagging down a waitress or trying to find a manager, you could put that suggestion right on the interactive board that goes straight to the manager in a message?
Opening in 2000, the fully accredited Advanced Academics Inc. partnered with schools and districts all over the United States to provide online learning opportunities for students who needed an additional educational option available. Offering access to certified teachers 24 hours a day, 5 days a week and 24/7 student technical support on an innovative virtual classroom platform, Advanced Academics Inc. made a point to equip students with all possible resources to assist in achieving a high school diploma. With students in the most rural corners of Oklahoma, where the organization is headquartered, were unable to get to school. Buses didn’t run that far and methods of transportation were slim. More and more students in traditional classrooms were not finding the environment to be conducive to their academic success. Students who need more time with their teacher or doing their homework or tests can fall between the cracks of customary school systems.
There had to be another option, surely, there was another way. Now a subsidiary of DeVry Inc., Advanced Academics Inc., is one of the most regarded online learning institutions in the country. Offering educational opportunities not only to those of high school age but to those who are younger, older, and in need of an accredited high school diploma, Advanced Academics is a sought after institution. This online learning option truly lives by their mission to help students succeed and graduate with a high school diploma.
Advanced Academics Inc. has free state-based programs in 10 states not including the international tuition-based program. Each of these programs requires specific criteria to be met in order to attend, as well as different contacts for counselors and student assistants and an outsourced general information and initial enrollment customer service. According to their LinkedIn page, Advanced Academics Inc., or AAI, has upwards of 500 employees across the footprint and headquarters with approximately 80% of their corporate employees able to work remotely utilizing the popular cloud computing system Salesforce. With all these national, and mobile, employees within the organization, AAI can experience a lapse in communication amongst their program directors, admissions, and enrollment.
This lack of communication has led to a multitude of issues within the organization such as programs changing criteria or dropping out of AAI, misinformation being provided to students and employees, and website update and repair. Because company-wide face to face meeting are near impossible, AAI has a heavy reliance on a chain of command and technology in order to make any updates or changes effective in the organization and for the information to spread accordingly. They lack a system or software that is accessible to all employees of the organization to be able to perform their jobs effectively. Halverson and Tirmizi (2008) state that organizations “have to find means, as they utilize global communication tools, to adjust their ways of communicating and understanding” in order to maintain effective communication (p. 185). AAI needs to make some adjustments so that all facets of the organization can work cohesively, providing the students the flawless service they need to succeed.
Since most of AAI has access to the same databases as well as utilize the same resources to perform their various job functions, it is a safely drawn conclusion that most employees are inept at accessing different technologies on a daily basis. I propose that all of the employees access a form of social networking technology that enables employees and team members to share ideas, suggestions, opinions, and news/updates with those in the AAI “community”. This site created specifically for this purpose, will pose as a forum divided into applicable sections and accessible to everyone to receive information and updates in real time, instead of waiting for it to be handed down the chain of command. In this idea management database topics such as software and hardware issues, updates, and suggestions can be discussed as well as any organizationally related announcements regarding meetings, open houses, closures, and changes to any program.
From each post, employees and team members will be able to vote on each post, elevating its importance (i.e. the more ‘likes’ a post has, it elevates to the top/front of the forum). They will also be able to re post to any smaller sub groups created in the organization. The AAI corporate office as well as group/subgroup leaders will be able to track the usage of the website to determine that all are using it to gather information and as an agreement/acknowledgement of any important policy or procedure changes. AAI could also provide a discussion feature regarding any new changes, such as commentary on any other social media. Any proposals or changes, lower level employees will be able to communicate with the upper level management in order to ask questions or address any concerns. This feature can provide the communication the organization would need in order to provide proficient service for students.
Aside from the obvious of supplying superior service to the students and parents, this social forum or virtual suggestion/announcement page provides many benefits to the AAI staff and employees.
On The Spot Ideas
AAI meetings for most of the departments are unintentionally sporadic and have to be spread throughout the footprint and calendar in order to ensure proper coverage for students. By then, team and staff members have to record and remember facets of their job functions that are affected and could be changed. Because not everyone is accessible throughout the organization at all times, it can be hard to utilize AAI’s open door policy. With the forum’s implementation, staff will be able to post questions right away, as it occurs to them. It would be open for other staff members to answer and vote on, to show its importance. This would also give upper level management opportunity to read and respond to any questions straight from the source, as opposed to second hand emails and meeting topics.
Lost In Translation
Because of the lack of formal information, the organization can suffer from procedural changes being lost in translation. Associates are able to misconstrue and confuse information that is being passed down to them through the chain of command. This game of telephone can lead to providing misinformation to students/parents, misinformed staff members, ebb and flow of communication lines between educational institution and organization, and overall bad employee morale. When there are several lines of communication between student/parent and AAI, they could get several different answers to one question they may ask. For example, a student requested an application for the online program in Arizona for the next school year.
The student then received a letter a week later from the program in Arizona stating they were not participating in an online program for the next school year and provided information on the traditional charter school they offered. Confused, the student called their admissions advisor who was unaware Arizona’s school was not participating next year. It was then that it was revealed that Arizona’s school had backed out of AAI’s virtual program. Had there been a more open communication forum, Arizona would have been able to communicate this to all formally. Ending any confusion that the student was caused.
Slow Moving Communication Train
It can take days, weeks, or never for certain information to be made available to everyone throughout AAI’s organizational structure. Information would have to be relayed from the state programs, to AAI’s upper level management and further down. Because there are so many cooks in the kitchen, AAI suffers from being able to relay information organization wide on a more time efficient basis. The information may be deemed as irrelevant to certain departments, however, if they were presented with a problem, they may be unable to assist the parent or student properly. Most communication within the organization occurs via email or by phone. With conflicting schedules and time zone’s, it’s very hard to relay information efficiently when dealing with so many people. With the forum, employees will be able to check it every day, all day during their working hours. This constant and consistent flow of communication allows for information readiness and could be referred to, before tapping on the shoulder of fellow associates or calling around departments.
Implementing this forum would enable the organization to communicate on a highly effective level. This form of information technology will enable upper level management to put forth different and more effective business practices, allowing for a better rate of return in the organization. With better communication, the organization could run more smoothly. Frit-enz (1997) likens a useful information technology system to that of the body’s circulatory system stating that “when valid useful information is blocked, the system goes into a form of cardiac arrest” (p. 93). An effective organization needs to absorb and use what information is being presented and decide what is needed in order to make the organization the most successful in the industry. This forum would allow upper level management to actively participate in a collaboration with all employees by sharing resources, information, and making themselves accessible when needed.
It is within large corporations and organizations that colleagues and associates become so involved in their own daily job functions, they have no direct relation to what may occur within other departments or areas in the organization. Collaboration and working closer together is one basic necessity of a successful organization and one that seems to fall out of practice with other organizations. It should remain a focus and when other ideas of maintaining that communication fails, a new one should be introduced and put into practice, such as the forum.
Business Process Changes
Currently, there is a ‘chain of command’ associated with AAI’s communication structure. This would have to be basically removed and replaced. Reason being, AAI would have to use the forum in its entirety, and on a consistent basis, in order for it to become effective and useful. The information technology team in the organization would be in charge of handling the forums structure and functionality. Each department, as it does currently, has a leader in which all information must be relayed and filtered through. From here each department lead will be responsible for providing information on the forum for everyone.
Upper level management will be able to determine, via regular virtual or in person meetings, to discuss what topic(s) are applicable to what department. As not everything within the organization is necessary for all departments, these meetings and their consistently are crucial in the development and maintenance of the forum. Other departments will be required to view and participate in the forum on a regular basis, depending on department determines frequency. From there, each department lead can determine whether or not the participation can determine agreeance/acknowledgement of certain procedural and policy changes as well as could serve as topics for in person meetings or huddles. These changes, although fairly subtle since most communication in the organization is electronic would prove to provide a faster return and feedback on any information presented.
Technology/Business Practices Used
With the implementation of a social media type forum in AAI, some best business practices will need to be agreed upon and enforced. Current moral and ethics practices and processes can continue to be used. Maintaining professionalism in this seemingly informal form of communication is key. Only professional and proper language will be used and enforced in the forum. Any language and behavior to the contrary will not tolerated and disciplinary action will be enforced.
Within the IT team, they will work to monitor the forum’s functionality, and maintain its ability to run efficiently. It’s reliability is allows AAI to “feel confident in its own capabilities and start assuring the rest of the business of continued service availability and performance” (Addy, 2007 p. 165). The IT team will perform routine maintenance on the forum to ensure its functionality and will be able to access and view feedback as well, adjusting the forum to create and maintain high usability throughout the organization.
High Level Implementation Plan
In order to properly implement the forum, it’s blue print must first be created. The IT team can create the forum and all functionalities presented, and bring it to the associates and employees who would benefit from its usage the most, being the end users. The end users would then provide the IT team feedback regarding what needs to be added or changed, based on the uses they would need the most. The agile process would make the end users a team who are more focused on the use and ease of accessibility of the forum. From there, the IT team can take the feedback and create a forum. The end users at that time will perform tests on the system, under the monitor of the IT team, to ensure all of the functionality the end users need is present.
Based on the feedback received from the testing phase, the IT team will be able to create and present the forum from there to upper level management, or provide the tweaks needed in order to make it more functional and run more tests. Once it’s put into effect, the forum will start in a probationary time frame to slowly introduce the forum into the daily lives of AAI employees. Another survey will be taken after said probationary period to determine if the forum can be of the utmost use to everyone, or if it works for certain departments only. From there, the forum will be put into play permanently, or if AAI would need to return to the drawing board.
It is with the introduction of this forum that I feel AAI would earn an immense amount of benefits for all. Everyone would be able to communicate, in real time, effectively. By building this information technology based community, AAI will be able to connect, collaborate, and share resources with all the associates and colleagues they interact with on a daily basis. Allowing for this open flow of communication, according to Cross (2010), will help everyone “network and build relationships, and then sustaining those connection and conversations in an online community in which a broader audience can participate” (p. 5). In this open door and open door community, AAI can see success grow by leaps and bounds inside and outside the organization.
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